Cindy Blackstock, a professor at the School of Social Work, has been named one of Canada’s Top 25 Women of Influence.
The annual list is compiled by the Women of Influence organization to “recognize the extraordinary accomplishments of Canada’s self-identified women and gender-diverse role models. The recipients have all left their mark over the past year: contributing to the greater good through their initiatives; using their influence to drive positive change; or reaching inspiring heights on a global stage.”
Advocating for Indigenous children’s rights
A member of the Gitksan First Nation and Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, Blackstock is Canada’s foremost Indigenous children’s rights advocate. She has dedicated her professional life to addressing systemic discrimination in the child welfare system. For more than 30 years, she has engaged in and promoted public education and key research on the issue, publishing more than 75 articles on topics relating to reconciliation, Indigenous theory, First Nations child welfare and human rights.
In its citation, the Women of Influence praised Blackstock for her pivotal role in the landmark $40 billion agreement reached on December 31, 2021, between the Canadian government and First Nations leaders, whereby First Nations children who were harmed by Canada’s discriminatory child welfare system may be compensated. The agreement marked the culmination of 15 years of public pressure and litigation.
“While the federal government still has much work to do to deliver on promises made, Cindy’s relentless pursuit of accountability and justice has been instrumental in holding the Canadian government responsible and calling attention to the rights of Indigenous children across the nation,” said the citation.
Subject of documentary
In January 2021, MacLean’s Magazine named Blackstock one of Canada’s 50 most influential people, calling her “a relentless champion of Indigenous children’s rights.”
Blackstock is also well-known for her leadership in bringing a human rights complaint against the federal government, resulting in a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal’s landmark ruling in 2016, in which the Tribunal found that the Government of Canada “was guilty of systemic discrimination by underfunding child welfare for First Nations children on reserve.”
The court case and Blackstock’s role is the subject of a 2016 documentary film We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice.
Learn more about the 2022 Top 25 Women of Influence.